Posts Tagged ‘Northumberland Avenue’

Cybher 2013. A grand day out…

June 6, 2013

Saturday was Cybher Day, the women bloggers conference that I first wrote about last week with mounting trepidation.

On the day it was end to end fab. Of course. All my pre-conference nerves were un-founded. Of course. Everyone was lovely. Of course. And I learned loads. Of course. It’s easy to know all this in retrospect and I look forward to the day when I can cut straight to the exciting part, but for now the nerves travel with me.

As for my account of the day I’ll begin near the end, if you don’t mind, with a little incident that still makes me chuckle and somehow sets up the day. But I’m afraid it involves me going to the loo. Can you bear it? That’s a clue.

When in the loo I heard a disembodied male voice addressing me through the walls. Was it the God of Blogging speaking to me directly? It had been a pretty amazing day. I listened harder and realised eventually I was being treated to a Paddington Bear story. Well of course. I loved Paddington when I was little and had there not been great conversations to return to in the bar I might well have stayed for a whole story.

Of course Paddington is a stranger in a foreign land and on Saturday I felt rather like that little bear: abroad and slightly confused, nervous but also hopeful and very curious. Like Paddington Bear on his first visit to a stately home, I had my “duffle coat…freshly ironed” and my “Wellington boots had an extra special shine to them”. I climbed the steps of 8 Northumberland Avenue feeling a little overwhelmed and a lot excited. I did not however, as I’d thought I might, skulk around the corner before going in. Result.

Imagine my surprise when the first item on the agenda was a present! For me. For all of us. A lovely new pod satchel from the Leather Satchel Company. It would definitely fit a whole round of marmalade sandwiches. Given the significance of last year’s Cybher bag for me – a random charity shop find that led me straight to the conference – this shiny new Cybher satchel was a wonderful start to the day. Oh my, what a lucky girl!

Paddington books and Cybher satchel

All my Paddington books, back in the limelight for a moment!

Paddington Bear, on his stately home visit was overwhelmed by all around him; “it really was like another world” and so it was for me on Saturday. As a novice blogger it was quite something to be surrounded by so much blogging expertise and experience. And having blogged ’til now on a virtual island it was pretty amazing to be in the same room as 200+ other people doing the same as me.

I spent the whole day watching, listening and learning – eyes and ears wide open to it all. Of course social media offers a virtual world of meetings, conversations and exchanges, but for the likes of me (I’ve still got a lot to learn about online connectivity) there’s nothing like a face-to-face meeting to bring everything and everyone truly to life.

Zoe Margolis’ opening speech set the tone for the day. Zoe is the woman behind Girl with a One Track Mind. She wrote this controversial blog about sex and her experiences of it under a pseudonym. Then in 2006 she was ‘outed’; pilloried by the press, sacked from her job and forced to go into hiding. Zoe’s keynote was inspiring and eye-opening as she described her experiences during that nightmare time.

Revenge when it came, was delivered by others in the blogosphere who dropped a Google bomb on the journalists responsible for calling Zoe ‘a slut’ and worse. A Google bombwhat?! Who knew there was such a thing? This was an online uprising by fellow women bloggers; a focussed attack to right a wrong. It shows the power of group intervention and the importance of mutual online support. Listening to Zoe I realised how little I know about this virtual World I’ve tentatively joined and how much I’ve under-estimated its potential strength.

Mutual support, community and online friendship clearly sustained Zoe during those dark days and they became key themes for Cybher Day. I enjoyed the conversations as much as the sessions and learned so much from both. I met some great people that I hope will become firm blogging friends. I won’t give a roll call here (I’d hate to miss anyone out), but what matters is that the ice is well and truly broken and I look forward to lots more conversations with my new blogging chums. Doubtless you’ll meet them all in time.

Collage of dolls group

My daughter making Cybher friends*

*Monster dolls by Pete Fowler

I realise by the way, that this account sounds very gushing. It is. With good reason. It was a fine day that became about much more than top tips and friendly people. For me it was about becoming part of of a supportive community that feels right. Sian and her Cybher team deserve every credit for pulling that community together and inspiring its members.

Alongside a desire to make blogging friends and learn, I also went to Cybher with a specific question in mind, that could overwrite all else. In the midst of all this should I really carry on blogging? There are some fabulous blogs out there and at Cybher I watched some of them projected on big screens. Seeing them up there added to my nagging fear that I have nothing valuable to add to the online conversation.

But during the day I came to realise that while we’re all blogging in different ways and for different reasons, all of us have a tale to tell and we’re all entitled to contribute. Including me.

Caroline Criado-Perez from The Women’s Room told us in no uncertain terms to see the value in what we do, to focus on the positive and not the negative that we women tend to dwell on. Moi?! I shrunk into my chair but took heed. I am beginning to realise that I need to stop pulling myself down and comparing myself (unfavourably) to others. I’m very good at it I might say. Is it fear? Or is it just a bad habit I need to shake? Work in progress.

In pursuit of further evidence for myself I also undertook a little poll in my head each time I spoke to an experienced blogger. And my survey said…  that all those beautifully crafted blogs are the result of years of effort. Well of course they are. What was I thinking? It’s too early for me to expect to tell a coherent story. Forget the blog stats, I was advised and just enjoy writing – it’s the secret to success. So I’ll try.

So now I have permission from myself and all those lovely Cybherites to continue my unfocussed ramblings for the time being. Hurrah. Permission is something I clearly seek from others; it’s a subject I’ll return to another day, but for now: permission granted Burgess.

So I daresay there’ll be a pic’n’mix of posts to come: musings on being a woman and a mother who is trying to re-arrange herself and re-emerge in midlife. There’ll be plenty of carefully teased navel fluff for your consideration and in time, when I put myself back in the job market proper there’ll be the trials and tribulations of that process. I might also produce the occasional plate of food for you to savour, though I’ll need to be careful not to gunk up the camera. And I’m tempted to rave about my favourite kitchen gadgets (teaser: my aunty’s potato peeler, see NOW you’re excited) and maybe sometimes I’ll move the clutter aside so I can photograph some of my charity shop finds and pretend I live like Candy Pop, although of course you’ll know the truth!

So here I go. Cybher 2013 has opened this new door a little wider for me and I’m looking forward to pushing it a bit further. A round of applause to the good ship Cybher and all who sail in her.

hands in the air clapping

Woo hoo!

Postscript: Oh and by the way many attendees have posted comprehensive and really helpful posts that you can peruse on Cybher’s website so you too can learn from the day’s sessions, should you wish to join this wonderful world of blogging. Go on. It’s good to have a voice.

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